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Freemasonry - Vol10no12..Philosophy of the First Degree (7 Pgs)

Freemasonry - Vol10no12..Philosophy of the First Degree (7 Pgs)

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The Philosophy of the First Degree
MW Bro. Harry E. Howard
Grand Master, Grand Lodge of Alberta1952-53.
Paper Delivered atthe Conference of Grand Masters of North Americaon 24
February 1953.
In the first place I must express my appreciation of the honor which was given to my GrandLodge of Alberta and myself in being invited to prepare an address to this highly selectivebody of distinguished Freemasons, representing as it does such a large number of brethrenwho have at some time requested a petition for admission to this most ancient and honorableinstitution. During my peregrinations over the length and breadth of my jurisdiction, stretchingfourteen hundred miles north of the boundary to the Arctic Circle and four hundred miles eastfrom the Rocky Mountains to the westerly boundary of our neighboring jurisdiction to the east,I have endeavored to emphasize the universality of the science and ever present need for thebrethren to practice outside of the Lodge those precepts of virtue which are so beautifullyinculcated within it. I have been conscious of the wishes, nay the heartfelt appeal, of many of our brethren who are away from centres where Masonic education is more readily available,for some enlightenment on the significance of the symbols and work and lectures and charges.Hitchcock in his Alchemy and Alchemist, written in 1857, quotes an old Hermetic philosopheras saying "although a man be poor, yet may he very well attain to perfection" and oncommenting on this be says, "That is, every man, no matter how humble his vocation, may dothe best he can in his place - may love mercy, do justly and walk humbly with God; and whatmore doth God require of any man." It would appear, therefore that even the symbols of theAlchemist have an affinity with the symbols of the spiritual temple of Freemasonry.In all my work in Lodge I have always been impressed with the deep spiritual and ethical valueof the lessons portrayed in the First Degree. I agree that the three degrees supply a wellrounded and abiding series of principles which should carry one through all the vissicitudes of life, but the first degree, as is proper, packs a punch which brings a man up smart to realizethat here is something steeped in fundamentals for a definite "way of life."The dictionary defines philosophy as 'the general principles, laws or causes that furnish therational explanation of anything - practical wisdom." This being so I feel that I cannot dobetter than to use as a basis for my subject, the procedure which is provided in order tobecome an Entered Apprentice. Voltaire, one of the great philosophers and a Freemason, said"the discovery of that which is true and the practice of that which is good are the two most.important objects of philosophy."When one has asked for and receives a "petition" and this, vouched for by two brethren, ispresented in open Lodge, then other brethren are assigned, to assure themselves of theworthiness of the petitioner. Certain attributes should be looked for here, such as thelikelihood of keeping confidences the tendency towards fidelity and loyalty and whether or notthere would be a risk of the petitioner to balk at the need for obedience. There should also begiven some idea of the need, on the part of the petitioner, for a spiritual atmosphere in hisattitude, having in mind the questions which will be asked of him if he should be so fortunateas to be admitted, and it is the nature of these questions which point out the basic principlesinherent in the Masonic philosophy.
The question requiring a declaration of freedom of approach, of being of an age of responsibility and of a genuine desire for knowledge and a sincere wish to become moreextensively serviceable to mankind, illustrate one of the basic philosophies of Freemasonry,"The brotherhood of man".There are also certain questions regarding ones belief in God and the immortality of the soulto which an unequivocal answer in the affirmative is essential, thus emphasizing another basicphilosophy, "The fatherhood of God".We have not yet secured admission but have been challenged with the type of organization weare about to be admitted into and when we do gain admission into the Lodge, erected to Godand dedicated to the Holy Saints John, an intercession is made to God for our assistance to sodedicate and devote our lives to His service that we may be enabled to display the beauties of true godliness. After this, when an admission has been made of our trust in God in times of difficulty, we are assured of the safety in following the guide.This point is surely one where the 133rd Psalm is applicable "Behold how good and howpleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity; It is like the precious ointment upon thehead that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard; that went down to the skirts of hisgarments; as the dew of Hermon and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion;for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore," and should be used as anexample of the relationship of the "brotherhood of man" to the "Fatherhood of God".After the preliminary perambulations, the charge of the Master, which puts the whole mattersquarely up to the candidate and outlines in a different way, the design of the institution, tomake its votaries wiser, better and consequently happier, never weary in well doing; naturallyseeking each others welfare and happiness equally with their own, would almost seem to givethe real summary of the lessons portrayed in the first degree, but we have only started,because we are admonished in connection with the wearing of the apron, "to let its pure andspotless surface be to you an ever present reminder of purity of life and rectitude of conduct,a never ending argument of nobler deeds, for higher thoughts, for greater achievements,"until when we stand before the Throne of God we shall have earned the judgment, "Well done,good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things. I will make thee ruler overmany things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord".Then comes the great lesson on Charity, beautifully taught in a never forgettable manner,calling for that lovely verse:We give thee but thine ownWhat ere the gift may beAll that we have is thine aloneA trust, O Lord, from TheeTo comfort and to bless,To find a balm for woeTo tend the lone and fatherless,Is Angels' work below.In various parts of this degree we are taught the universality of Freemasonry and that aMason's charity should know no bounds save prudence.
 "The Lodge represents the world and includes both Heaven and Earth. Ancient Templeformations consisted of a double square end to end, one representing Heaven and the otherrepresenting Earth. In the middle were three cubes, one above the other representing aprimary Trinity. Here the mortal soul is blended with the immortal spirit. The initiate has hiseyes opened to a new world and he will not pass out of the Lodge as quite the same man ashe entered it. Hence the term "Universality."Charity being linked up in the same paragraph as Universality has a very deep significancebecause it illustrates the limitless area which this virtue of all virtues covers. I think this wasthe principle intended to be inculcated. There would appear to be a cororally in the expressionlater on with reference to initiation wherein it is stated that a Mason is instructed in properexercise of UNIVERSAL BENEFICENCE AND CHARITY and to seek solace of his own distress byextending relief and consolation to his Fellow Creatures in the hours of their affliction. Noticethe emphasis on the UNIVERSALITY. In other words the reference to a "Mason's Charityknowing no bounds" refers not only to the extent but the area.The golden rule "To do unto others as you would wish they should do unto you" takes on anew meaning when applied to the lessons herein contained.It would be well at this point to deal with the quality of Charity and to consider what it consistsof. To give money to the poor is a beautiful act but hardly as important as to give love, unstinted, without hope of gain or reward - this indeed may well extend to the very feet of theGreat White Throne. If we read what St. Paul says about Charity we will still see that it islimitless in degree. In the King James version of the Holy Bible the word of "love" wassubstituted for the word "Charity"."Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have not love, I ambecome as sounding brass, or a tinkling symbol.And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and allknowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, andnot have love, I am nothing.And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my bodyto be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing.Love suffereth long, and is kind; Love envieth not: Love vaunteth not itself, isnot puffed up.Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked,thinketh no evil.Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.Love never faileth; but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whetherthere be tongues, they shall cease, whether there be knowledge, it shall vanishaway.For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

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